Octaman (1971)

Written and Directed by Harry Essex

Run Time: 76 minutes

25 Words or Less:

Sequences of boring talky scenes interspersed with a pissed off octopus-man flailing at people with flaccid rubber tentacles.

The Cast

Kerwin Mathews Dr. Rick Torres (Kerwin Mathews)

Dr. Torres, convinced that atomic tests are the cause of the recent spate of red-eyed, screaming, octopi babies, does his best to find and capture Octaman before it’s too late…too late for what? Who knows.

Pier Angeli Susan Lowry (Pier Angeli)

Susan, the requisite pretty face in the otherwise bland band of idiots, uses her feminine charms to lure Octaman to his doom. Otherwise she spends most of her time sitting around the camper waiting for monsters to grab her.

David Essex The Indian (David Essex)

Davido, dismissively credited as “The Indian”, is the local guide who supposedly grew up in the area. Played by David Essex, son of the director…go figure, Davido maximally hams up every scene with a Mexican accent that would make Speedy Gonzoles cringe.

Johnny Johnny

When you need money to find a wild octopus-man, Johnny is the guy to talk to…just make sure he gets to keep the “freak” if you find him.

Octoman Octaman (Himself)

‘Nuff said.

This low-budget misfire, written and directed by Harry Essex, who also wrote the screenplay for the classic 1954 The Creature from the Black Lagoon, is a turgid rubber-suit monster movie with no redeeming value. Actually, let me take that back. Ironically, the only value is in fact the wonderfully absurd monster suit, which greatly reminds me of the "Tabanga" suit in From Hell It Came complete with its gaping, frozen mouth and immobile eyes.

It seems strange that Essex was involved with TCftBL, and then falls to these depths nearly 2 decades later. The 2 movies share the same basic plot, i.e., pissed off water creature stalks land lubbers and falls in love with a cute woman…but the similarities stop there. The former film has wit, suspense, and great effects. While Octaman is just another run-of-the-mill derivative"Monster Movie" whose only saving grace is the grandly goofy monster and not much else. OK, I admit that "Davido’s" outrageous Mexican accent gave me a few grins, but unfortunately there’s not too much else to enjoy in this barren landscape.

Regarding the monster suit, the Octaman costume was created by Rick Baker, who 10 years later would go on to win an Academy Award for his special effects in An American Werewolf in London. I declare that he certainly honed his craft in the decade between these two movies. A brief glance through IMDB reveals that Baker was paid a whopping $1000 for his work in Octaman, I hope it was worth it.

Actually, there is a funny little cameo in this movie: the small role of Dr. Willard is played by none other than Jeff Morrow, aka Mitch from The Giant Claw! Regarding The Claw, despite my snarky review of that awful film, I think Morrow is a capable actor but, poor guy, he just seems to keep getting screwed over by the roles he takes in these films. So it goes.

Oh, and by the way, it drives me crazy to have to type OctAman…it should be OctOman…grrr! Maybe they got confused with "aqua" or something. Or maybe they didn’t care.

OK, standard opening credits in blood-red letters portends…yes, yes, let’s get this over with.

Before the movie even really gets going, it’s already making me crazy. You can’t help but suspect that the audio track for the first few minutes must have been lost, forcing the filmmakers to dub dialog in post production. Naturally in a film of this quality, the voices in no way whatsoever synchronize with mouths, nor even the actors’ genders match the voices, e.g., a woman’s voice is heard as we see a man talking into a radio and so on. Maybe this was meant to be an homage to The Creeping Terror’s epic audio problems. Even funnier is when you hear people talking while the actors are standing with closed mouths…Octa-Ventroliquist! It’s so bad that I thought my DVD player was screwed up, but after repeated viewings of the first few minutes (no, NOT the whole damned movie), indeed, the first 4 minutes of the film has a completely out-of-sync sound track. I can’t stress enough how disorienting this is! Maybe it was the cheap transfer to the DVD, but…ouch…nice job, guys.

Alright, Dr. Richard Torres, biologist and all-around good guy, takes blood samples from some local villagers and notes that radiation levels have risen due to off-shore nuclear tests. We all remember those atomic bomb tests off the coast of Mexico back in the 60’s, right? Despite the aforementioned audio-sync problems, we manage to piece together that these villagers are more or less screwed because of all the contaminated fish they eat. Sorry, dudes. Our bad. As Torres plays with test tubes and does sciency stuff, a breathless fisherman runs up and shows them what he caught in the water: a squealing baby octopus with glaring red eyes. Yep, radiation will do that.

Susan, Torres’s assistant, notes, "Look…the way it stares at you!" Well, yes, Susan, since it doesn’t have eyelids it kinda has to stare, doesn’t it? To further confuse matters, we occasionally get a POV shot from the octopus which reveals a multi-faceted insect-like view of the world which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever since it doesn’t have compound eyes. But, let’s not nitpick this poor movie to death just yet, there’ll be plenty of time for that later. Speaking of staring, about 6 feet away in the reeds, we catch a glimpse of Octaman staring at them. I couldn’t help but notice that nobody spots this man-sized, eight-armed beast a mere stone cast away. I tell ya, Torres’s years as a field biologist sure seem to have sharpened his powers of observation.

Well, Torres and Susan decide to take the catch-of-the-day back to town and show it to Dr. Willard, who is an expert in something-or-other. Back at base camp, an assistant is sitting around poking and prodding another little octopus-thingee. Are these Octaman’s siblings? Children? Where is Octawoman? Well, at this junction we get our first proper glimpse of Octaman in all his rubbery glory. But isn’t it a bit too early for this? Where’s the "tease"? Well, I guess the director knows best. Anyway, Octaman takes umbrage at having his little friends being poked, so he kills the researcher (off screen) and releases the squealing rubber toy octopus thingees back into the water. Note to future field researchers: Don’t poke screaming, mutant hell-octopi while sitting with your back to the water!

Back in town, Torres tries to convince Dr. Willard that the little monster is the result of polluted water, but Willard isn’t buying it. Why not? Because the script says so. So even though they have found traces of human DNA in the monster (What?! Ewwwww! ), Willard cuts Torres’s funding so he can use the money on more "rewarding" projects. Yeah, radioactive half-human, half-octopus mutants…what fields of biological research could possibly benefit from those?

So Torres storms out of Willard’s office and, by the magic of Jump Cutting, ends up back in Mexico meeting generic cowboy Steve, "the best wrangler, stunt man, and animal trainer around!" Steve proceeds to introduce local big shot, Johnny. Mr. Money Bags agrees to fund the mission but in return, if they find Octaman, he wants to keep and display him as a "freak" in one of his circuses. Being desperate for money, Torres acquiesces. Now there’s a man of scientific conviction for you.

With everything in place, Torres, Susan and the gang bundle into their Winnabego and head out into the wilderness to look for mutant octopus things. Eventually they reach their previous research site…"Mort? Mort? I have lots of matches for you!" shouts Susan, but gets no reply. A quick look around finds Mort and Raul laying dead on the ground…I think that’s one of the guys who was poking the little octopus, but I’m not sure. Oh, and boy does his corpse look fresh despite laying in the desert sun for days…even the blood on his forehead is still wet! Wow.

As word spreads of the killings, the local villagers begin wandering into camp and sharing their stories of old superstitions about a half-man half-octopus creature. Yeah, sure, of course they would. One of the locals, Davido, played by the director’s son, presents some drawings he’s made…which I presume are to be of some use, but we never see them again. Maybe the pictures were meant to engender a sense of nervous anticipation as to what’s to come, but we’ve already seen the monster in its entirety…

"Zee boy, he draws well, makes things of claaaaay, and sells them in zee marketplace," a villager informs Torres in a ludicrous accent. Well, it turns out Davido’s grandfather was killed by an Octaman (the Octaman?), a tale confirmed by a flashback showing a brief attack with woeful special effects. Anyway, Davido offers to take everybody out to the old "villeeeeege" where his grandmother used to live.

Now comes the film’s seemingly endless second act. People talk. People walk. Did I mention that people talk? Octaman stares from the reeds (which is all he can do since his face was crafted from one solid piece of hard rubber). Yes, my friends, this is a merciless trudge with little to see. Oh, wait, Octaman is apparently captivated with Susan and watches jealously from the weeds as she chats with the other expedition members. Think "Creature of the Black Lagoon" but with 100th of the budget and a 1000th of the enthusiasm.

Hey wait a minute…something is happening! Later that night, while Torres and Davido are out on the lake fishing up those weird red-eyed octopi, Octaman pays the camp a visit, and with a little assistance from the actors lifting his tentacles for him, manages to kill Johnny the Cash Man and release a bunch of squids, er, octopi, from their cans. Then again, it might not have been Johnny since 90% of the action takes place in the freaking dark! So, sorry, Johnny is ok. Then who the hell was killed? Oh, Carlos was killed. Yeah, him. .

So…who the hell is this again? Somebody turn on a light…please?

Torres and Davido hear the commotion and hurry back from the lake…and then, with scarcely any hint of concern…head back out to look for more little mutants. But don’t worry, with Susan and Johnny alone at camp, what could possibly go wrong? Whoa! Octaman pays another visit (I didn’t see that coming), smacks the RV a few times then returns to the lake. Torres and Davido return again, calm Susan, and immediately return to the lake for the 3rd time! Good grief, maybe it’s time to circle the wagons until daylight and then get the hell out of there…just sayin’.

Out on the water, Torres and Davido paddle around looking for the monster. Well, I can hear paddling noises but I can’t see shit because the film is so damned gloomy. Now, I think this is supposed to be suspenseful because I hear that weird "bonk-bonk….bonk-bonk" heart-beat sound which indicates that Octaman is nearby, but who can tell?! I can’t see anything! Oh wait, the heartbeat stopped. Now it’s back again. DAMN YOU, MOVIE!

Octaman pulls Mort out of the boat and into the water. I know, I know, who the hell is Mort?…but he’s pulled back into the boat again before anything, you know, exciting, could happen. Boy, that was close…I was almost interested in what was happening.

Back at camp, despite being attacked twice and having one of their party murdered by a mutant octopus-man only an hour before, Johnny and Susan sit in the dark pleasantly chatting and passing the time. This time Octaman breaks into the RV, knocks Johnny on the noggin with a limp limb, and carries out a suddenly unconscious Susan. Boy, I would have loved to get a better screen shot of that, but here’s the best I could do before the actors walked out of the beam from the sole underpowered klieg light:

I swear, this was the best screen shot I could get of this…

OK, Torres and Steve (who the hell is Steve?!) show up and block Octaman from carrying Susan into the water. This is accomplished by shining their flashlights into Octaman’s face while Torres shouts that "He doesn’t like the light!" This conclusion seems odd since we’ve already seen Octaman walking around in broad daylight with no apparent difficulties. But…nevermind that. Torres grabs a magically appearing jerry can of gasoline and ignites a ring of fire around Octaman.

"The flames will burn up all the oxygen around him!" Torres bellows. Uh. Ok.

Well, I’ll be…Sure enough, Octaman does run out of oxygen, or gets bored and falls asleep, and collapses to the ground.

The next day, Torres and the others gather on the beach with Octaman sedated and safely secured in a large net. Yeah, we’ll see how long that lasts…annnnnnd now it’s night time again.

Wow, that was, what, 30 whole seconds of light where you could actually see the actors?

Oh, and suddenly Octaman is free of the net and stomping around again. I must have blinked when that happened. Susan now steps up to the plate and uses her feminine wiles to charm and then command Octaman to back away from the others. (Why not just shine flashlights in his face again?) Now, if I’m not mistaken, Octaman’s eyes are green which means…something. I guess he’s hypnotized or in love. Who the hell knows. Well, Susan’s trick works and Octaman slithers off into the darkness.

"He could have gone into the brush or the lake," Torres announces. Wow, Torres, since you’re standing by a lake surrounded by brush….you think that’s what happened? This guy is sharp!

The next day the survivors pack up the RV and Davido guides them to another possible hiding spot. You see, Davido knows all about these Octaman hiding spots because his grandfather was killed by one of them. You follow? But wait! A fallen telephone pole, sorry, "tree", blocks the road. It’s kind of funny how Octaman can push over trees but struggles with aluminum camper doors.

"Doctor! Come kweeeeek!" Davido shouts from the brush after discovering a cave in the hillside. Davido insists on exploring the cave, because, yeah, Octaman would surely prefer taking refuge in a cave rather than the giant lake on the other side of the road. Idiot. Since cave exploration is a tried and true method for any cheap sci-fi movie to burn run time, a vote is taken and what do you know: Into the cave they go.

Now, let’s watch people do some cave walkin’! and you thought it was dark at night! You ain’t seen dark until you see Octaman cave scenes. (At this point I’ve seen the monster, what?, a dozen times already, so there’s really not much to look forward to (besides the words "The End")…so I’m getting impatient watching people walk around in the dark. Oh, the toils and travails I put myself through for this web site!)

"He’s been here!" Torres notes when he sees Octaman tracks in the sand. Boy, you can’t slip anything past him.

Finally, Octaman shows up and they madly fire their weapons at him. I thought they wanted to capture him alive, but there you have it.

The gang eventually gets trapped in a dead end (zzzzzzz) and Octaman triggers a cave in behind them. How the hell did he manage that? But…Oh lord! There’s still 10 minutes left of runtime and the actors are trapped in a cave?!…hooo boy <sigh>.

After a few minutes of pointless dialog, Davido discovers a huge hole in the wall slanting up to the outside. Gee, that was convenient. You’d think that the sunlight shining down the hole might have indicated to the others that this was a way out…

Now we follow everybody crawling up and out, and if you thought it was boring watching people walk through a cave, try watching people crawl!

Naturally, this hole exit connects up with the same hole they took when they came into the cave…what a surprise. When they return to their camper, Octaman jumps out the door (!) and starts waving his rubber appendages in all directions. But seriously folks, how did he get inside the camper? This is starting to get silly.

Octaman quickly knocks everybody to the ground because, hey, he’s Octaman, right? This leaves Susan standing alone and staring into his eyes, but her hypnotizing trick doesn’t work this time (you can tell…his eyes are still red). So Octaman sweeps her into his, er, "arms" and heads off towards the water again.

Down at the lakeshore, Torres and Davido are mysteriously awake now and quickly surround Octaman thereby giving Susan a chance to jump away. I wondered why he couldn’t just flail his tentacles around again since, even with Susan in his arms, he still has 6 appendages available for ass-whoopin’.

Whatever, with Susan out of danger, everybody opens fire and fills Octaman full of lead. So much for studying the find of the century. Ugh.

The End

Dennis Grisbeck (Feb 2015)

Afterthoughts

Sure, ok, Octaman is an easy target for ridicule, but it is charming in its silliness and honest efforts to be a better movie than it could ever hope to become.

Octaman’s quintessential rubber suit, complete with visible seams and zippers is glorious to behold, but the director blows it by showing us the full creature within the first 8 minutes of the movie instead of teasing us with occasionally glimpses followed by the big reveal at the end. As mentioned in the review, the limp tentacles require the actors to literally “help” the monster grab and kill them, which still makes me chuckle when I recall those scenes.

One of the film’s major faults is the plodding pacing in the middle hour or so. It’s far too talky and the sparse attack scenes, while funny at first, quickly become repetitious as you resign yourself to waiting for the film’s limp climax…or simply press the fast forward button.

Conclusion? An OK film for a rainy Saturday afternoon. At 76 minutes it’s not like you have to invest your whole day in it…but it does drag from time to time. But, oh man, is that monster suit awesome!

Read more about Octaman at

IMDB

3 comments to Octaman (1971)

  • Guts3d

    …Since cave exploration is a tried and true method for any cheap sci-fi movie to burn run time, a vote is taken and what do you know: Into the cave they go.

    Priceless! Gave me a good morning chuckle! Looks like this one sort of phoned in the script. A circle of burning gasoline will eat all of the oxygen inside the circle? I’ll check with my old physics teacher about that one! Maybe it only works if there is a rubber suited monster inside said circle. Great review!

  • “…A circle of burning gasoline will eat all of the oxygen inside the circle?…”

    What I later realized but forgot to mention was that Susan was also inside the circle but she was just fine 🙂

  • daniel clavette

    octaman is one great monster movies of 1970 and it talk radition pollution ,beauty and beast and clasiic b-movies suffs and also fu to watch.

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